Archive | Feminism

Costumes…

mrsolsen.jpgYesterday I overheard two of my female students discussing their Halloween costumes:

Student 1: …it’s like slutty cop, but with fishnets.

Student 2:  Where’d you get fishnets? I need them for my devil costume, I’ve got these great high red boots…

After that I walked away, not wanting to hear how else the high red boots were going to be accessorized.

I indulged in a brief bit of head-shaking – had these girls no shame! is this what feminism brought us – girls dressed like strippers in the name of empowerment!

Then I remembered a long-ago Halloween and my mother’s suggestion for a costume: “You can be Mrs. Olsen the coffee lady! A cardigan, some powder in your hair, we’ll get you a can of Folgers…”

She was thinking ease-of-costume-making.

I wanted to be a gypsy, with eyeliner and long jangly earrings.If I’d owned red boots at the time, I would’ve worn ’em in a heartbeat – and I’m sure my mother would’ve had the same reaction as I did to my students.

Clearly I’ve already got my costume for this year’s Tricks or Treats: I’ll be going as my mother and probably wearing a cardigan.

Continue Reading · on October 31, 2008 in Feminism, Parenting

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

 


nytimes_palin_rosie.jpgI promised myself that I’d stop writing about Sarah Palin because frankly, what more is there to say? 

 

Then I saw this photo in the Times this morning and I got cranky all over again. What’s that line from “The Godfather III”? Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in….

 

The sloganeering posters in this photograph are another reason why access to Photoshop should be regulated: here yet again is la belle sarah, but this time instead of the guns-and-gals image, her head has been superimposed on Rosie the Riveter. 

 

What’s wrong with this picture? 

 

First a few facts:

 

Rosie the Riveter started as a promotional campaign that encouraged women to enter the work force during World War II, mostly by tackling the manufacturing and industrial jobs that had been vacated by men fighting overseas.

 

Women were told it was their patriotic duty to sacrifice the comforts of home for the rigors of work and they answered that call in droves: over six million women went to work outside the home during this period, an unprecedented rise in female employment. The work they did wasn’t glamorous, “feminine,” or domestic, but it was absolutely necessary: these Rosies kept the wheels of US manufacturing moving during the war years. Many of them worked in factories that produced the necessities of war for soldiers: bombers, tanks, weaponry.

 

Here is a less glamorous picture of women welders, by Margaret Bourke-White:

 


bourkewhite_womenwelding.jpg

It’s a slightly different image than pretty Rosie with her bulging bicep, but equally at odds with Pretty Palin, who probably HAS gotten dirty in her life (hard to field-dress a moose and stay moussed), but who always has a weather eye out for the best camera angles.

 

What does Sarah Palin have to do with Rosie the Riveter? As mayor, governor, and now veep candidate, she presents herself as a woman who can have it all, but she has never worked for any of the necessities that working women need:  health insurance, pre-natal care, affordable safe child-care, flexible work schedules. Call me crazy but I’d say that even stay-at-home-moms need those things, too.

 

I know that Palin had a full-time nanny when her kids were younger, and I find myself wondering who scrubs her toilets, washes her clothes, cleans her house? Does she do it, perhaps on one of those days when she’s at home in Anchorage but billing the people of Alaska for the governor’s work she’s not doing in Juneau? Does the First Dude do dishes?

 

What do Palin and McCain have to do with Rosie the Riveter?  McC & P carry forward the policies of an administration that encouraged people to SHOP in support of the war effort.  Never once have we been asked to make any sacrifices to support the soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistant.  

 

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a big fan of sacrifice but it does seem we’re asking a relatively small percentage of families to support the war at the cost of the flesh, blood, and mental health of their children, shouldn’t the rest of us do SOMETHING? Maybe, oh, I don’t know, try to become more fuel efficient?

 

What do Palin and McCain have to do with Rosie the Riveter?  Rosie’s image and her “we can do it” slogan have been linchpins of the feminist movement for as long as I can remember.  I have seen Rosie’s face bobbing up and down at pro-choice rallies, at Clinton rallies, at “Take Back the Night” protests.  What do Palin and McCain have to do with any of these things? 

 

I can think of only one way to connect Sarah and Rosie: when women worked in the manufacturing plants, they earned roughly half what a man did for the same job. Men earned about $55 per hour, women about $32.  Would Sarah have settled for the Alaska governor’s job if her salary had been that much less than that of her male predecessor? Somehow, I think not. Sarah has Rosie (and the legions of feminists who followed in Rosie’s workbooted footsteps) to thank for that.

 

Sarah may be riveting her right-wing supporters but to the rest of us? She’s just a pretty face pasted on a poster.  Pure P.R. intended to assuage Republican moderates that McCain is, in fact, a with-it maverick, who “gets” women and knows what they need.  But if his examples are Cindy on the one hand and Sarah on the other, then what McCain “gets” about women wouldn’t fill Rosie’s upraised fist.

 

 

 

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Continue Reading · on September 15, 2008 in Feminism

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